Mark Cuban, the influential owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has been at the helm of one of the NBA's most successful franchises since his acquisition of the team in 2000. Under his stewardship, the Mavericks have achieved an impressive winning percentage of 59.6% since the turn of the millennium, second only to the San Antonio Spurs' 64.6%.
However, a revelation from Cuban himself sheds light on a missed opportunity that could have potentially made the Mavericks even more formidable. In the 2013 NBA Draft, Cuban made the crucial decision to override the team's general manager, Donnie Nelson, who was keen on selecting the now-superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Cuban's Key Draft Decision
Cuban candidly admitted his involvement in this pivotal moment, stating, "It was me." He explained that Nelson was fully committed to securing Giannis, going all-in on the prospect. However, Cuban had a different vision for the team's immediate future.
Despite Giannis's undeniable talent, Cuban believed that the Greek Freak was still three years away from making a significant impact in the NBA. The Mavericks' owner was focused on finding a player who could help elevate the team to championship contention sooner.
Cuban's preference at the time was for the Mavericks to pursue Dwight Howard, a dominant 6'10" big man. Howard, despite coming off a challenging season with the Los Angeles Lakers, was still a force to be reckoned with in the league.
Cuban saw him as an immediate solution to the team's needs. In the end, the Mavericks selected Kelly Olynyk with the 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft but swiftly traded him to the Boston Celtics for Lucas Nogueira and two draft picks.
Nogueira was subsequently traded to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Shane Larkin. These moves allowed the Mavericks to free up approximately $400,000 in cap space, a strategic financial move. However, their pursuit of Dwight Howard ultimately proved fruitless, as he signed with the Houston Rockets in free agency, aiming to build a title-contending team alongside James Harden.
This development not only meant the Mavericks missed out on Howard but also dashed their hopes of drafting Giannis, whose extraordinary talents have since propelled him to NBA superstardom. In retrospect, Cuban's decision to prioritize immediate success over the long-term potential of Giannis Antetokounmpo was a gamble that did not pay off as expected, and it remains a significant "what if" moment in the history of the Dallas Mavericks.